Part II: Embracing the Principles of Salvation and Sanctification

150 150 Ronny Mannebonia

In our journey through the three-part series delving into the richness of Paul’s theological insights, shaped profoundly by his dramatic conversion, we arrive at Part II. While the first part focused on the conversion of the Apostle Paul, we now focus on the profound principles of salvation and sanctification. 

The Principle of Salvation: A Profound Union with Christ

Imagine the moment when Jesus confronts Paul with a question that pierces the heart: “Why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4). Here’s Paul, who’s never laid a finger on Jesus Himself, known for targeting His followers instead. Yet, Jesus doesn’t say, “Why are you persecuting my followers?” He makes it personal: “Me.” It’s a moment of profound confusion for Paul, a turning point where his self-righteousness begins to fall—even before the scales fall from his eyes (Acts 9:18).

Paul would realize that what we do to Jesus’s followers, we do to Him. This revealed an intimate connection between Jesus and His followers, a union so close that Jesus experiences what His followers experience. This union means we participate in Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and ascension (Romans 6:1–11). It’s a profound reality that signifies the death of our old selves and our rebirth into a life marked by freedom and holiness.

Often, we might limit our view of Christ’s work to a transaction, purely in forensic terms—Jesus paid our debt, satisfied God’s justice, and bore the wrath meant for our sins, enabling God’s forgiveness. While all of this is undeniably true, it doesn’t fully capture the depth of what Jesus did for us. He didn’t just pay a price; He united Himself with us. John Calvin insightfully noted, “As long as Christ remains outside of us and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value to us.”

Consider the daring language Paul uses in Galatians 3:13. It’s bold, almost audacious: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” Galatians 3:13. Pause and let that sink in. It is one of the most precious verses in the entire Bible: the sinless Savior took upon Himself the curse we deserved, so we might receive the blessings promised to Abraham by faith (Galatians 3:14). In Christ, and only in Christ, we receive this blessing of redemption.

2 Corinthians 5:21 further illustrates this union: God made the sinless One to be sin on our behalf. This divine exchange—His righteousness for our sinfulness—allows us to stand before God not in our own flawed righteousness but in the perfect righteousness of Christ.

Philippians 3:9 captures Paul’s longing and the universal Christian aspiration: to be found in Christ, possessing not our own righteousness derived from the law but the righteousness that comes through faith. It’s a declaration that our ultimate security and identity rest in the life of Christ within us, not in our own merits. This union with Christ is the heart of the gospel, a profound and beautifully emphatic truth that it should bring us to our knees in worship, marveling at the mystery and mercy of “Christ in us.”

The Principle of Sanctification: Living the Union

This union with Christ extends beyond salvation into how we live our lives—sanctification. This principle has both a deeply personal and a collective dimension that shapes our existence.

On a Personal Level:

Consider Paul’s intense dialogue with the Corinthians about their moral missteps (1 Cor 6:15-20). He paints a vivid picture: when believers entangle themselves in sin, such as visiting prostitutes, it’s not an isolated act. Paul’s stark message is that in doing so, we metaphorically drag Christ into our mess. This imagery isn’t meant to shock us but to awaken us to the reality of our inseparable bond with Jesus. Whether it’s succumbing to the lure of pornography or stepping into places we have no business being, Paul reminds us that these aren’t solo ventures into darkness. Jesus isn’t waiting outside; He’s in every choice we make because of our union with Him. Our union with Christ means He’s part of every aspect of our lives, even those moments we wish He weren’t. 

Each decision we make in private has the potential to affect the broader body of Christ. 

On a Corporate Level:

As followers of Christ, the very thought of directly hurting Jesus, slandering His name, or turning others away from Him is disgusting to us. The idea of persecuting the One who gave everything to us is unimaginable. Yet, Paul brings to light a challenging truth—we often fail to see how our actions towards fellow believers are, in essence, actions towards Christ Himself. When we engage in slander, spread falsehoods, and allow divisions over non-essential doctrines to fracture our unity, we’re not harming our brothers and sisters but wounding Christ.

This revelation should be a wake-up call for all of us. Imagine if we all lived with the awareness that our actions toward others are actions toward Christ. How we speak about or treat fellow believers is, in essence, how we treat Jesus. If we truly grasp and live out this understanding, imagine the impact— Christian marriages healed, churches united, and a bold witness to the lost world that truly reflects the love and holiness of Christ.

This isn’t about guilt-tripping but a call to the reality of “Christ in us.” Our bond with Christ is meant to be our strength, guide, and comfort—not something we try to temporarily shake off for fleeting pleasures. Let’s live fully aware of His presence, making choices that honor our profound union with Him.

Looking Ahead: Navigating Through Suffering

As we progress to the next part of our series, we will explore the Principle of Suffering, examining how Paul’s insights into suffering offer us profound guidance on enduring hardships and finding comfort in our union with Christ. 

Reflection: 

When Paul speaks to the Corinthians about their actions (1 Cor 6:15-20), he urges them to see beyond the act itself to the union their choices affect. How do your private choices reflect your union with Christ, knowing He is with you in every decision?

And on a broader scale, think about how your words and actions impact your church community. Have you considered that a harsh word or an unforgiving stance might not only hurt your brother or sister but also grieve Christ? What steps can you take?

Blessings, 

Pastor Ronny

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Ronny Mannebonia

All stories by: Ronny Mannebonia